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Bills to revoke welfare based on drug testing and school absences clear state House

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A pair of bills that would revoke welfare benefits from some Michigan families has cleared the state House. The legislation has support on both sides of the aisle.

One bill would let the state cut cash assistance payments to families with kids who persistently miss school.

The state Department of Human Services is already doing this – the bill would make the policy state law.

Many Republicans and Democrats say it’s a good way to promote school attendance in poor areas.

But Democratic Representative Jeff Irwin is worried some abusive parents might be keeping their kids out of school to avoid getting turned in to the authorities.

“Now here comes the state Legislature applying a penalty to that whole family. And how do you think that parent is going to mete out that penalty on their kids, these same kids that they’re already abusing?”

Republican Representative Al Pscholka sponsored a bill to cut benefits to parents of truant children. He says education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty.

“And you’ve got to give kids the opportunity to be in school to get that education. Because a lot of times it’s not the school district, it’s not the teacher, it’s the parents,” said Pscholka.

Another bill would allow suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients. It would start as a one-year pilot program in three counties.

Both bills now go to the state Senate.

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